Unliving

by

Avitue

Chapter 23 - A Silence before the Storm

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A note from Avitue

Fight? Tomorrow! 

Since some people apparently wondered about it, I'm taking this time to clarify that no, this story is not planned to be a short writathon-only entry. This will be the secons entry to my planned epic saga of around ten books, and is projected to last 300-400ish chapters.

I just started it on writathon for the challenge.

"To fight against a necromancer is better described as a hunt. Imagine you were to hunt a pack animal, which would come at you endlessly, tirelessly, without fear or fatigue, and the only way to make them stop is to kill their pack leader. That's how it feels to fight most necromancers. Accordingly, necromancer's armies are akin to a snake that's immortal, unless you crush the head." - Ciarran Fiachna, Head of the Templar Order of Vitalica, circa 26 VA.



Kur-Urseth plains, approximately a day's journey south of Danna, Central Junora, second day of the fourth week of the eight month, year 37 VA.

 

Aideen's mind boggled at the sight arrayed before her eyes.

 

Across the flat, expansive plains that dominated central Junora, stood the entirety of the Spirit Servant's army, or at least as many as he managed to gather in the time he had. She had long lost count of the grand army gathered, but she suspected there to be at least a hundred thousand thralls arrayed against them, and an unknown number of soul puppet assassins.

 

A gross mismatch in number to the Bone Lord's mere sixteen thousand troops, with Ciarran's thousand templars included.

 

Of course, where the other side mostly relied on the weight of numbers and assassination, the Bone Lord's army traded quantity for quality instead, as even the lowliest bone beasts in his army were easily capable of fighting the thralls three or four at a time. Much less his elites, but number had a quality on its own as well, and neither side had committed yet.

 

For now, they stared at each other across the plains as a light drizzle of early autumn rain fell upon them, armor and weapons glistened with raindrops, as unseeing vacant eyes stared into hollow eye sockets.

 

In the last few weeks, the Bone Lord's army encountered no resistance as they made their way to central Junora, as villages were found empty other than for hungry serfs left with next to no food to tide them over. All the necromancers and thralls and other "valuables" had long been evacuated beforehand.

 

The serfs considered less valuable had been left behind with barely any food as a result, which just reinforced Aideen's disgust for the necromancers of Junora. The fact that one of them had killed her before didn't even play a role in that disgust, as their utter disregard for the people beneath their thumbs were more than enough to thoroughly disgust her.

 

Fortunately, or perhaps because he had predicted this would happen, the Bone Lord had plenty of extra provisions in his army's storage, and they shared that excess to the hungry serfs.

 

Many of the serfs had stared, their eyes unbelieveing, at the rations distributed to them by skeletons, but shortly after the army left their villages, someone would test the food tentatively, and soon after the village would have sated their hunger.

 

The Bone Lord's army was arrayed in a wide line abreast, with over two thousand cavalrymen on each side. To the left side of their formation were the entirety of the Wings of Night, as well as hundred bone beasts. On the right side, the templar order was joined by the Bone Lord's Death Knight cavalry, as well as the other hundred bone beasts. The ten thousand or so beastial skeletons filled the lines of the formation, while the bone champions formed the middle.

 

Aideen, her mother, and Diarmuid were amongst the bone champions, and they were flanked by all four of Aoife's "pets". Her father and Faerghus led their templars on the right wing, while the Bone Lord sat atop his behemoth of a mount right in their midst.

 

Across the field, with the aid of a spyglass - a relatively new Elmaiyan invention - she saw a group of robed figures huddled together, with one pale orc to whom they showed obesiance, as he sat on a palanquin, carried by sixteen thralls.

 

She guessed the pale orc to be the current Spirit Servant, a guess that seem justified with the way the orc seemed as it he was not in full control of his body. His movements were jerky and uncertain, and reminded her of a puppet whose strings were tugged by many hands at once.

 

The main reason her family was not with the Bone Lord atop his mount, was ironically enough, for their own safety. The Bone Lord's throne was a large target in the eyes of their enemies, and they were certain to attempt to assault it. While the Bone Lord had not feared their assault at all, his magic was not good for protecting others, and having the family there would have been more dangerous for them instead.

 

Even if he had offered them a safe perch however, Aideen knew that her family would have chosen to do battle instead. Her father and eldest brother were a given, as they had their templars to lead. She and Diarmuid on the other hand, were just eager to put an end to this conflict, so that the poor serfs left to their own devices could finally rebuild their lives, hopefully in a much better way.

 

The Junorans likely had tens, if not hundreds of soul puppets in hiding, waiting for a chance to perform an assassination. Aideen shivered at the idea of hundreds of her killers lying in wait, but cleared her mind with a shake of her head.

 

On their side, Myrddin and his Death's Hand were similarly out of sight, as they too sought their chance to go take out key targets in the Junoran army, and simultaneously also guarded against enemy assassins.

 

Against normal necromancer-led troops, the Junoran preference for assassination would have been potentially devastating, as each necromancer lost meant the loss of control over a part of the army.

 

Against the Bone Lord himself however, that tactic became a moot point. While they would never admit to it, the amalgamated spirits in control of the Spirit Servant's body dared not try the Bone Lord in single combat.

 

Similarly, they knew that their assassins were near-worthless against him, but there were other targets to be had on the battlefield.

 

The battle began with a roar, as the Junoran thralls surged out in one massive wave towards the Bone Lord's smaller army.

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A note from Avitue

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